|Mag Bay Adventure|
Part 3: Flushed with Success
By Rick Gaffney — March 2002
The next day, despite an increase in both wind and sea conditions, the bite was just as good. I was aboard Mil-So-Mar, and our 17th billfish of the day was San Diego Marlin Club president Dave Verdugo’s 200th lifetime billfish. After a brief celebration Hamilton offered to let me have a shot at my first striped marlin on fly rod. After the first two teased fish failed to generate a good bite, I got off a clean cast, got a good bite, and strip-set the hook. The ensuing battle included a dunking when Mil-So-Mar backed down hard, but we eventually tagged and released an estimated 110-pound striped marlin after a 30-minute fight on 20-pound tippet. It was also Mil-So-Mar’s first fly-caught billfish.
Flushed with success, we went back to bait, and when at one point we had a double hook-up, Hamilton dropped back a lure on a bait-casting rig from the aft flying bridge helm station and promptly hooked a third striper. I asked if he wanted me to take the wheel while he muscled in the fish, but he demurred and somehow managed to maneuver the beamy 73-footer in pursuit of the two fish being fought below while tending to his own striper. We eventually tagged and released all three.
After that accomplishment, Hamilton carefully approached a phalanx of surfing billfish, eased the big hull alongside them, then dashed forward, retrieved a rigged baitfish from the bow bait tank, and neatly cast a live "greenie" into the path of a tailing striper. Bingo! Another hook-up, and back along the side deck to the cockpit he strode, retrieving line. It was clear that a squad of anglers could easily have followed him, casting successive live baits, hooking successive fish, and then moving back down the line to make room for the next angler. No wonder big catch numbers are the norm in these waters.
Mil-So-Mar had a total of 26 billfish that day and a four-and-a-half day count of 103 billfish. Team Riviera left the fishing grounds early with her tackle in disarray, a designated angler with limp arms, and a count of 21 billfish for the last day. That gave the crew a grand total of 55 striped marlin, two sailfish, and uncounted dorado, wahoo, and tuna, for two and a half days of fishing off Magdalena Bay.
To call my Mag Bay trip a success would be an understatement, and it wasn’t just a fluke. The following November Ellsworth Marine hosted what I’d term the ultimate rendezvous: a pair of motherships and a fleet of Rivieras, including several of the 36-, 40-, 43-, and 48-foot models. Although the fishing paled in comparison to my trip, everyone caught plenty of fish, and the well-planned event convinced many more anglers of the greatness of the Mag Bay fishery. It also provided another reminder that you needn’t venture halfway ‘round the world to get spectacular fishing. Indeed, for fortunate Southern Californians, spectacular striped marlin fishing is located right in their backyard.
Hawaii-based writer-photographer Rick Gaffney’s work has ranged from covering the America’s Cup to writing a sportfishing column.
This article originally appeared in the February 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.